The Minnesota Wild added a player for the future and one for the
present at Saturday's NHL draft, trading for Los Angeles Kings
veteran forward Pavol Demitra after choosing Canadian center
Sheppard was taken with the No. 9 pick. Then the Wild, using the
No. 17 selection they received in the March trade of goalie
Dwayne Roloson to the Edmonton Oilers, traded the pick and prospect
Patrick O'Sullivan to the Kings for the 31-year-old Demitra.
Demitra began his career with the Ottawa Senators in 1993-94 and
later spent eight seasons with the St. Louis Blues, leading the
team in scoring four times and drawing invitations to three
All-Star games. He signed a three-year, $13.5 million contract last
summer with Los Angeles.
The native of Slovakia has two seasons remaining on the deal,
which pays him $4.5 million per year. A nasal fracture sustained
when he was hit in the face with a puck during the Olympics limited
him to 58 games, but Demitra still scored 25 goals and tallied 37
assists -- good for 62 points, third on the Kings.
"He's just a good offensive player who is going to be very good
for us," Minnesota president and general manager Doug Risebrough
said by phone from Vancouver, where the draft was conducted. "He's
got good values, and it's just going to be a good fit."
Demitra was the Lady Byng Trophy winner in 2000 with the Blues,
an award given annually to a player exhibiting sportsmanship,
gentlemanly play and exceptional ability.
Giving up O'Sullivan, the Wild's second-round draft pick in
2003, was not an easy choice, since he was one of the top scorers
in an organization that is in need of them. O'Sullivan spent last
season playing for the Houston Aeros, Minnesota's top minor league
affiliate, and earned the AHL's rookie of the year award with 47
goals and 93 points in 78 games.
The opportunity to acquire an accomplished veteran for the front
line, though, was too strong.
"One is now. One is down the road in the future," Risebrough
said. "You can't do that without drafting well and developing
Three of the first eight picks in the draft were Minnesotans,
including St. Paul native Kyle Okposo at No. 7 and Bloomington
native Peter Mueller at No. 8 -- preventing the Wild from getting
one of their own.
But they weren't unhappy with Sheppard, a big two-way player who
is at least two years away from being ready for the NHL. The
18-year-old native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was the ninth-ranked
North American skater by the league's scouting service. He had 30
goals and 54 assists in 66 games for Cape Breton last season in the
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
"We are very patient," Risebrough said.
Sheppard said he doesn't mind waiting. He'll use the time to
work on his speed.
"I've only heard good things. The city, the rink, the fans, the
whole organization. I'm looking forward to getting the opportunity
to play there," he said from Vancouver.
In the second round, the Wild chose 18-year-old Czech Republic
native Ondrej Fiala, another center, with the 40th overall pick.
The 14th-ranked North American skater after scoring 21 goals and
notching 14 assists in 51 games for Everett in the Western Hockey
League last season, Fiala is considered a strong skater and a
solid, creative two-way player.